USF Seko Worldwide, a freight-forwarding company in Elk Grove, Ill., has a novel way of deciding who gets new computers on a limited technology budget: The $106-million company runs an essay contest to award equipment upgrades. Eighty of its independent sales reps competed for 20 fully loaded Toshiba Satellite Pro laptops by explaining why the writer should get one and how it would benefit both the rep and the company.

"We wanted to make sure we were giving the computers to the right people," explains Cathy Moran, Seko's director of sales training and support. "We got a lot of very creative responses." One rep gave the laptop a name and told a story from its perspective. Another recorded a song, to the tune of the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme: "This is a story about a man named Bob, whose computer was so slow, he could hardly do his job." Top-40 material it wasn't, but the guy got his laptop--with the expectation that it would help him make more sales.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing